Covid Budget awakening | brandi Sellers | Ep 218

Brandi Sellers

What You'll Get Out Of Today's Show

  • The third episode in our case study series featuring Brandi Sellers discussing how to be financially resilient and move forward when your job requires you to be there in person. She is a social media manager and birth and postpartum doula while her husband, John, is a concert musician.
  • Unable to meet clients in the hospital, she has switched to providing virtual support through Zoom, FaceTime, and Skype, is offering add-on services, and shifting her marketing to let potential clients know doulas can still offer support during this pandemic. Instead of traveling to perform in concert, her husband has shifted to projects that can be performed virtually like scoring work.
  • Pre-COVID, Brandi and her husband had a widely variable monthly income. During COVID, their monthly income is still variable and somewhat lower but they consistently earn at least $5,000 month.
  • She is paying $279 a month on car insurance for one car and has not shopped around for a better rate for years. Reducing that bill by $100-$150 a month is possible.
  • Her cell phone plan is costing $180 a month for 3 lines, but she could get that down to as low as $60, saving over a thousand dollars per year.
  • Between paying off her credit card and cutting other recurring bills and subscriptions, she can likely save $600 month by taking one action step a week.
  • It's possible to reduce her monthly expenses by as much as 30% if she redoubles her effort and uses every available dollar to pay off debts such as the credit card, student loan, and car.
  • Johnathan's action steps
    • Know how much your life actually costs
    • Know what your recurring monthly structural expenses are
  • Once the debt is paid off, Brandi's core expenses are roughly $3,500 a month or $42,000 a year. To reach financial independence, she will need 25 times that amount, or $1,050,000.
  • Under the 4% rule of thumb, she can withdraw 4% from her savings annually and reliably expect that money will last many decades.
  • Every $100 she cuts from her monthly expenses reduces her financial independence number by $30,000.
  • Her budget is already optimized in other ways, but with intentionality and taking action, she should be able to further reduce monthly expenses, free up another $1,000 of cash flow, and reach financial independence in as few as 12 years.
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Resources Mentioned In Today's Conversation

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  • Transcript here

     

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    Jonathan: All right, everyone. We are continuing our financial resilience case study and I tell you what is so surprising, I guess it's not surprising is just that everybody has been impacted by COVID. We all know this, but it means that it provides us a really fascinating look in seeing how people are pivoting and bringing kind of the tools and the mindset of the financial independence community to this process. Very few of us can afford to just put our head in the sand and wait until it's all over. It takes actually going back to the fundamentals, going back to the basics and saying, "Okay, where are we? Where are we when we had our wakeup call? And then, now that we know where we are, what else do we want to do?

    Jonathan: Today we're going to be speaking with Brandi Sellers. Her and her husband have this fantastic story. And through this, I think we're all going to get the opportunity to see financial resilience exhibited and there's a lot to take home from this. To help me with this, I have my host, Brad, here with me today. How are you doing buddy?

    Brad: Hey Jonathan, I am doing quite well. And yeah, you hit on it, this is the perfect financial resilience case study for this age we're in. I mean Brandi and her husband have these jobs that, quite literally, you need to be there in person. And what happens when you can't anymore? Her husband's a concert musician and one of her jobs is as a doula, so I mean these, you need to be there. And it's going to be fascinating to talk through a real financial case study of someone who is living this at the moment. They are trying to make adjustments and figure out how to move forward and not just how to move forward, but how to thrive. And I just can't wait to talk with Brandi and really try to assist in the way that we can. So Brandi with that, welcome to ChooseFI.

    Brandi Sellers: Thank you for having me. I'm excited, I think.

    Jonathan: All right, nice. Well consider this a financial checkup. And I think the thing that people need to understand about financial resilience is, in a time like this, this isn't looking back, "Oh look at what we did." It's, "Oh wow, it hit the fan. What are we going to do and how can we best optimize with the circumstances that are frankly outside of our control?" This is where you are. But I think probably before I even do that, we need to answer the most pressing question on a lot of the people in our audience's mind, what is a doula?

    Brandi Sellers: I love it. Oh my gosh, what is a doula? A doula is someone who, it comes from the Greek word, serves. So basically, we are there to support birthing people during their birth. And let me back up actually, there's quite a lot of variations of being a doula. There are birth and postpartum doulas, which is my scope of practice, there are miscarriage and loss doulas, for those who maybe have miscarried and some have stillbirth, there are death doulas, there're doulas who literally support someone as they're transitioning out of this life.

    Brandi Sellers: They're all kind of doulas and I just happen to be a birth and postpartum doula. So that means that while someone is laboring, I am doing all the things to make sure that they feel comfortable and they feel seen and they feel heard. That goes into advocacy if they're doing a hospital birth, making sure that everything is communicated in a way in which they understand and then they can make informed decisions surrounding their birth and things aren't just happening to them, they're happening with their consent. So that is a doula, the long and the short of it.

    Jonathan: Nice, so okay, I mean in terms of a career path or a calling, I'm not sure exactly how it'd be framed, how did you find this and what has this meant for you as kind of a career path?

    Brandi Sellers: Yeah, so the way I kind of came into this was I had been in textiles for four years and I loved it, it was great, I worked with a lot of cool brands on the creative side of it. However, after I had my second son, Jedi, that's his name. He's not an actual Jedi, but he is.

    Jonathan: Don't tell him that.

    Brandi Sellers: I know, be careful what you name your kids because, boy, do they live up to it. After I had him, it was one of those things where I just knew that a shift was happening. And so I started doing a lot more women's work and so I did an event and it sold out. And it was with a panel of experts, and it was just confirmation that I had kind of gone in the right direction. And one of the moderators there asked me, she was like, "Have you ever thought of becoming a doula?" And I was like, "You know what, actually I have." And before I knew it, I think I was in a training like the next month and that's kind of what started everything.

    Jonathan: So textiles to doula, I mean, that's a pivot right there. Tell me more about this transition arc and is this entrepreneurship, are you working for a company? What was the transition?

    Brandi Sellers: I mean, I literally had a very hard conversation with my wonderful employer. He was so sweet, so kind, but I knew it was just time to move on. Like I said, I was doing meetings in the car with a breastfeeding baby. At that time Jedi was really young and crying, it was a lot, it was a lot to kind of do. It was one of those things that I knew it was time to move on. And so after I had the conversation, I felt lighter, I felt better. And during that time, COVID was definitely not happening, my husband was traveling a lot and working a lot. So we had some kind of grounding to where we were exactly destitute with me leaving.

    Brandi Sellers: And so, yeah, I just went full force into it. I started in postpartum, which is where I go and you support moms who just had babies, [inaudible 00:06:30] you help them with or bottle feeding, you help them with navigating their postpartum journey because it is quite the journey. And I just went full out into it and then eventually I got into birth. So yeah, I just jumped in.

    Brad: Brandi, are you employed by a hospital, by a company, are you hired by individual families? How does that work?

    Brandi Sellers: It's a little bit of both. So with being a doula, it's me, I put myself out there on social media and a lot of times people find me there. I've had people contact me via direct message and say, "Hey I'm giving birth at home, this is my first baby and I really would like some support, are you available?" Or I have some people who have contacted me, black women, who are birthing in a hospital and they perhaps don't feel safe. I've had people contact me and say, "Hey, I want to feel safe and I don't feel safe." And so that's actually what propelled me into supporting people in birth.

    Brandi Sellers: And so yeah, I mean I'm not sure if you're familiar with the whole statistics and black women and birthing in hospitals and all that. But just to give context to the conversation, basically black women are three to four times more likely to die during childbirth in a hospital and it's purely because of bias. It's a thing, you can look it up, it's like on the CDC. So that was one of my why's and why I got into the birthing part of it.

    Jonathan: So this role is 50% plus supportive care and 50% advocacy at the patient level?

    Brandi Sellers: Exactly, exactly, that's exactly what it was and is. So I do that and most of the people that contact me for doula work, not even just the social media managing stuff, but doula work, it's usually through social.

    Jonathan: So this is entrepreneurship, you are the business model, it's my time. And I'm just curious like I'm not trying to pry too much, but just generally the training, how long and intensive was the training? Is it a licensure? And then two, on the other end of this, what is the compensation range? I'm not asking you for specifics on what you charge, but like what would you expect? What's the range for someone that moves into this field because they feel like, "Wow, this is something I think I could be good at. I didn't even know this was the thing and I want to look into this further."

    Brandi Sellers: Yeah, absolutely, so there is a certification process for some. You can go through DONA, which is a like certification organization, there are others as well. But then there are some where it's more so apprenticeship and training. So with that, you would find a training in your area or online. I think there are a lot of online trainings happening as we speak because of COVID and you just basically take this training. And it's usually a good amount of time, sometimes it's days, sometimes it's week. And it's usually an intensive, so it might be like a five-day intensive. And then you have a whole bunch of things to read and a lot of homework and then you have to do a lot of just kind of groundwork and that's kind of how you get into it.

    Brandi Sellers: The thing to remember is, we tell people this, we're not medical professionals, so it's a whole different situation. As far as the price range goes, I've seen where doulas charge anywhere from 1,000 a birth, to 7,000 a birth, to 10,000 a birth, there are some doulas that do that. And I think it really just goes into their expertise, their training, how long they've been a doula and their experience.

    Jonathan: So Brandi, this is entrepreneurship and this is a word of mouth business, which means your service, the care or the empathy you bring. I mean, I would imagine that's table stakes for having additional referrals. When someone's getting into this and they're just getting started and maybe they finally just got their first client, the first person to say, "I want to work with you." When you look back at how long you've been doing this and what's really moved the needle, is it just that, just showing up or is there anything else that you would advise to someone that's in this kind of word of mouth based referral business to help grow exposure and awareness and be able to build a predictable, stable income around something like this?

    Brandi Sellers: Yeah, I would say use the tools around you. I think there are a lot of people who they don't really capitalize on the tools like social media, or the tools like a blog or just all the things that we have around us. I think if we're not careful... Or just having a decent website, an easy website to navigate, even if it's not like crazy with all these plugins and everything like that or interactive, it could just be simply where can I contact you? How can I contact you? Just having those things where it makes it easy for people to find you and to connect with you, I think is key. And I think sometimes that can be overlooked. And so for me, what's been really helpful, again, I've tried to use as many tools and platforms as I can and it's kind of served me pretty well.

    Jonathan: Yeah, you said something in there, make it easy. I think every business owners, small, medium, and large should take those words, heed those words as significantly as possible, make it easy. I think about so many websites that I go to that you have to weed through multiple pages just to find a phone number or find out what is the call to action? Make it clear, make it easy, I mean that in and of itself is amazing advice. And I'm curious, so it sounds like this job as a doula is your passion but you've mentioned a couple of times social media, social media manager. Is that your full-time job, is being a doula your full-time job, what's the intersection here? And then obviously, I want to hear how COVID is impacting this but first tell me about the social media manager.

    Brandi Sellers: Yeah, so I am the social media manager at a baby-focused, parent-focused company and I love it. It's the best thing in the world, I get to work with an amazing team. It is definitely my nine to five but it's the dopest nine to five. It's a team full of parents, a team full of non-parents. It's a team full of people who believe in the future and why baby-wearing, breastfeeding attachment parenting more so than anything is the heart of everything and making the world a better place, and how it just starts from the beginning and I love it. I've been doing my own social media since 2016 but moving into this role of social media manager, it's been since November.

    Jonathan: And so let's talk about that because that's another transition in here, would you say that you got your college degree, you got your focus in social media management. When someone looks at, "Oh look at all these educational qualifications, is that immediately what pops off to the hiring recruiter?"

    Brandi Sellers: Well, one, I didn't major in social media management, I did not major.

    Jonathan: Oh, you did not.

    Brandi Sellers: No, I did not. I actually majored in music, that's how my husband and I met. But I think it all comes from the same place because it's all creative. So for me, a day to day, what it looks like for me in social media, it looks like content, it looks like creating content for this brand, creating content that basically propels the image of their ethos. So if their ethos is creating a better future for people, just people, and they relate it to attachment parenting, then that should be the look of the social media. So it's really, really cool, I get to like be creative in that way and it's my job.

    Jonathan: No, and I set that up very specifically because I do think that we put so much emphasis on degrees and not nearly enough emphasis on skills. And so we're in our 30s and we're like, "Oh, I need to go get the skills." So that's my actual question. In lieu of the "degree" in social media management, where did you get the skills or did you learn them on the job? Talk us through that.

    Brandi Sellers: Oh, that's a good question. I mean prior to getting this official role, I had been doing social media on my own brand. So I had been kind of teaching myself. I mean we always are scrolling, we're always on our phones and just looking and looking and looking. And I think I consider myself to be a pretty grounded person and kind of know what I like and what I don't like and the image of what I wanted to put out there. And so when it came to this role, it was just a transition of, "Okay, so I am now marketing this particular brand to people."

    Brandi Sellers: I mean the skill, I think it was just something that I've always been able to do. And it's just now that there's a name to it. I mean, I think I talked to someone about this a few days ago, it's like, back in 2006 there was no such thing as a social media manager. What was that? What does that even mean? There was no Instagram back then, now it's actually a job. And so I think it's something that much like a doula, I've always been a nurturing person. I've always doulaed people in my life, I've always supported people. And the same with this, I've always marketed, I've always branded, I've always done those things. So now it's just, there's a name to it.

    Brad: I guess I'm curious too, how did you actually get that first in social media? So like you said, okay, I scroll, I'm a professional scroller, obviously, joking. But I mean it's based on what you like and what jumps out to you, that was your background in it, but how do you convince an employer to hire you that first time? Talk us through that.

    Brandi Sellers: Yeah, so I had kind of I had worked with this one particular brand for a few years and we had cultivated a great relationship just as a contractor, as a "influencer." And so, because I had already had that relationship when this position came open, I was at a time where I was just like, I'm already kind of doing this from itself. And I kind of just raised my hand and was like, "Hey, I'm down." And I went in for an interview, had quite a few interviews and it just felt like it was a good fit and a continuation of what it is that I already do, [inaudible 00:16:53].

    Jonathan: Yeah, would you say for someone that they know that their current degree is not future-proof. In fact, they can see the writing on the wall and they're like... but now this individual doesn't exactly have the next vision lined up. Do you feel like just starting a blog is like a playground where you can start to future-proof your skills and even if you don't know exactly where it's going to land you, the time is probably worth investing just to play in that sandbox?

    Brandi Sellers: Absolutely, I think any kind of creative outlet in that way right now in the world that you can do anywhere at home, I think is pretty darn foolproof. I mean, granted in 2016 when I started my blog, I had no clue that COVID was going to happen. I had no clue that any of this was going to happen, no one did. But I'm so grateful that I started then because, one, it was just a passion of mine. I had had a miscarriage and so I wanted to write about miscarriage and I wanted to support people with miscarriage and so that's where it was birthed from.

    Brandi Sellers: But I think taking advantage of the platform, like I said, whether it was blog, Instagram, any of the platforms that were there just do it because I knew, "Hey, these are all things." At that time I just had a baby and I wanted to be with the baby. I knew that I could do what I was doing anywhere. I didn't have to go into a place to do it if I took advantage of what was right in front of me. And I think that would be, if there was some advice would be that; take advantage of what's around you, where it's foolproof, where it doesn't matter where you are, what's going on, you can still do your job.

    Jonathan: Yeah, and I think you setting this up for COVID really is the next part of this as we kind of talk about getting punched in the face financially. I know we were talking offline, it looked like you guys have variable income so you're not locked at any point. But in good times or pre-COVID times you had a pretty big variance there, somewhere between six to $10,000 a month, that was kind of the range. And you have this kind of floor and you hope to hustle and crush it and get more than that, but you would kind of base your finances around six to 10K a month. What has happened since COVID landed, how has that affected your income?

    Brandi Sellers: I mean, for one, my husband, he usually travels and that is like double that. So he's out on the road then that's an extra, how much per month that's coming in, so there's that. Now it's a little less because it's more things of what we can do virtually here. So if it's doula stuff or obviously, my nine to five, but then also his virtual stuff, whatever he can do, it fluctuates. So Brad, I saw you lean in, let's talk about that, right?

    Brad: Yeah, so virtual jobs, virtual professions. He's a musician who is usually on tour in concerts of some sorts. You're a doula who is giving in-person either in someone's house or at a hospital, which both of these jobs require significant in-person time and energy. And now it sounds like your husband is adjusting in some way, you said virtual work. I believe you're still operating and supporting people as a doula. Talk us through what does that transition look like in real life? I mean, this is quite literally in real time.

    Brandi Sellers: Yeah, this is good, this is so fitting. So for me, what it looks like is exactly what you just saw. Just to give context, literally, where our client just called. But basically I have had to switch from in-person. Right now if I would have gotten that call, I would probably be like, "Okay, see you guys later. All right, we'll talk soon." And I would have gotten my bag, I would have taken a Lyft or the car and I would have went to the hospital or wherever they were birthing. Now that we are doing virtual support, it looks different.

    Brandi Sellers: So prenatals instead of them being in person, which is where we kind of connect before birth, it now looks like virtual, so either Zoom, or Skype, or FaceTime, that's what it looks like. So that's changed a lot of doulas are switching now to virtual. For my husband, it looks like him doing more scoring work or looks like, "Oh, this particular project is happening so I'm going to do music for that," as opposed to an actual concert. So it's different, it is so different. I really want COVID to go away.

    Jonathan: As do we all. Who is that person who is hoping it will just hang out longer? Come on people.

    Brandi Sellers: Who's that person? Who is she or he? They needs to go.

    Brad: Hey Brandi, I wanted to ask you though about your current doula clients. So obviously, these are people who are giving birth, like the woman who just called you two minutes ago, this is someone who I am assuming though, I don't know has been a client of yours for weeks or potentially multi-months prior to COVID. Are the fees that you can charge different because you're not there in person, are you getting fewer new clients now? What has been the actual impact on your business?

    Brandi Sellers: So that's been different. I think a lot of doulas are figuring that out. For me, I've been doing add-ons, so instead of usually pre-COVID what I did, I would do two prenatals, which is it would involve us getting together in person, talking through birth plans and all these things and then a followup postpartum visit where I would come to their house, make sure they're eating, doing all the things. Now, what I've had to add on is we're going to do, after 36 weeks, weekly check in. So we do weekly Zoom or FaceTime check-ins and then we do postpartum. Instead of me coming just once in person, twice a week, we're doing postpartum check-ins.

    Brandi Sellers: And sometimes we have all the things to talk through and sometimes we don't. And then also for this, yeah, I'm not going to be there at the hospital because right now doulas are not allowed at the hospital to kind of minimize exposure. I will be laboring with her virtually. So that is going to look like me basically like this, FaceTime, as long as she feels comfortable that is.

    Jonathan: Right, so there's two things. One is you realized early on and it sounds like it's been a strength of yours, that you needed a home base for this. Leverage the tools around, you need a website, you need to take advantage of social media to build your network, to build that word of mouth referral. You should be leaning on social media when possible and having a place where people can easily contact, "Hey, find a doula near me." You find Brandi.

    Jonathan: But now your landing pages, which prior to this point probably featured what you did and what you could expect when you hire a consult, we'll talk about those in person visits, those prenatals, have you adjusted your marketing and your services offer to say, "Hey, even now with everything that's going on, even with the restrictions of what's going on, here's how I'm best able to serve you and this is how I'm adapting to what's going on here." Has that been part of your marketing too, your potential... maybe not the return, I'm sure you have people that come back and use you for a second, a third child, but with new clientele, when they're looking for a doula in COVID times for the first time, what do they find when they find your website?

    Brandi Sellers: Absolutely, I mean now it's funny, I have to actually update my website. I mean-

    Jonathan: Oh, put it on your to-do list.

    Brandi Sellers: Yeah, I have to actually update my website and my contract because we have our doula agreements. And it's funny, I talked to a theater birth worker friend of mine and she was saying how in her contract they have a natural disaster, in case of natural disaster. And those are things that I would never think to put, but she does because she's been in a natural disaster. And I think now because of COVID, so many birth workers are like, "In case of pandemic," because we've been in a pandemic before and so we have to add all those things to the contract. In case of pandemic, this is what we expect. And so yeah, definitely the marketing's had to change. I've done more IG lives than I can count, I've done more IG stories just to let people know doulas are here, take over, same thing. Doulas are here, we're still here, it just looks different.

    Jonathan: So obviously, I mean we've talked about the impact on your business model and on your husband's business model, these are not good times. The reason we have good times is because we have bad times to compare them to, and these are bad times. You say you're down to kind of maybe instead of six to 10,000 maybe down to the five to $8,000 range. Still accounting for some of the variants that we talked about. Is that-

    Brandi Sellers: Somewhere around there, yeah, between there.

    Jonathan: But you pretty consistently hit that floor of $5,000 a month? Does that-

    Brandi Sellers: Oh, for sure, for sure.

    Jonathan: All right, so let's use... Brad, what do you think about using $6,000 a month for what we use for kind of like COVID times? Does that seem about reasonable?

    Brad: Yeah, based on what Brandi is telling us, that seems fair.

    Jonathan: Okay, so Brandi, in this case study, you sent us some of your expenses ahead of time. So what we're going to do is we're going kind of take a look at a COVID budget. What's your COVID budget? And then project out based on that, what is your ten-year path? Where are you going to be at the end of this? How far would that put you on your path to financial independence? And then along the way, we'll kind of ask you a few financial independence questions in terms of are you optimizing different ways based on where you find yourself and maybe make a few recommendations. So how does that sound? You ready to kick this COVID budget off?

    Brandi Sellers: I think I am, I think I am.

    Jonathan: This is the real hot seat, Brad.

    Brad: Indeed.

    Brandi Sellers: It is, it's a hot seat.

    Jonathan: All right, so let's go ahead. In the past we've called it the big three. I'm tempted to just switch over to the big four and include taxes in this as well. But taxes, obviously, we all have to pay taxes. For this study, we're just kind of looking at net pay, that's why I asked you what your take home pay and those two numbers that we illustrated, were just talking about take home pay. So from that, let's look at the big three, housing, transportation and groceries. I have down here on this budget, your housing costs and is that a mortgage or rent?

    Brandi Sellers: Rent.

    Jonathan: $1,800 a month?

    Brandi Sellers: Yes.

    Jonathan: And then I have your transportation cost at around $480 a month. Is there car payment in there?

    Brandi Sellers: Yes, that's the car payment, yeah.

    Jonathan: Brad, I guess you're adding this up as I go. Car insurance, $279 a month, is that insurance on two cars?

    Brandi Sellers: Just one.

    Jonathan: Jeepers, why is that? That seems a little high, doesn't it?

    Brad: Yeah, I mean, I'm paying about $50 a month I think on each of my cars.

    Jonathan: And your car is just like giant paperweights right now?

    Brad: Yeah, well, seriously.

    Jonathan: No, I'm talking about Brandi's. Brandi is paying $270 for two cars that are just sitting in the driveway. You can't go to the hospital. You just got the call, your husband's stuck at home. That's a lot of money.

    Brandi Sellers: I know.

    Brad: Brandi, have you shopped that?

    Brandi Sellers: You know what, I should. I actually should, it's been a while. I think it's one of those things that we haven't done it because we've had it for so many years. And so it's like you have one baby and then you have another baby and then it's like, before you know you're like, okay, this is what's going out and you don't pay attention to it, I'm ashamed to say that.

    Brad: No, no, you should not be ashamed at all. But I mean that's clearly an action step from this call. Is just go online, in probably 10 minutes or less you could get a couple of different quotes I know. I was with Geico, I've moved over to State Farm recently and just get a couple of different quotes just online. Or if you would know somebody in town that is an agent, that could certainly, if you have a person, at least to just get a sense. But I mean, right off the top of my head, that seems like you're paying probably at least 100 or $150 extra a month. Obviously, we don't know the driving history. So there might be accidents or there might be something in there that's causing it to be that high. But it sounds like just even shopping it is going to save you 1000 bucks a year, no sweat from one phone call or one 10 minute visit to a website.

    Jonathan: I would imagine a competitive quote will get that down under $150 a month. I mean, that's kind of just like my ball in that.

    Brandi Sellers: It's funny, we've actually talked about that recently. It's like, we should totally call and shop around but it's just we've had it for years, so that's why.

    Jonathan: Yeah, you're not the only one. To our audience, if you're listening to this and for you, you're like, "Oh, let's probably take a look at that as well," we'll have some links in the show notes for brokerage companies where you can get auto insurance companies to compete for your business. But there's money to be saved out there. And I think what we talked about is just a state of drift. It's so easy just not to do this, but if you just take these 1% improvements each week, there is hundreds of dollars a month. Well, we'll keep going here. Your grocery budget, you, your husband and Jedi, $480 a month for groceries, that seems totally in line, is that accurate?

    Brandi Sellers: That's very accurate. Now, that we have developed a system, a complete system, especially during COVID.

    Jonathan: Wow, tell us about the system.

    Brandi Sellers: Yeah, so-

    Brad: And Mrs. Brandi, it's a family of five, it's not just the three of you?

    Brandi Sellers: Five, we've actually developed quite the system to the point where now, even after COVID, whenever that happens, we probably will stick with this because it's kind of awesome. We have been shopping super local. So we're looking at the farmer's markets. There's a farmer's market in Long Beach here in Los Angeles. And literally, it is I think 30 bucks for a big box of fruits and veggies. Yeah, it's pretty crazy. Between that then we've been going to the Indian market, they have curbside pickup and I think we've been able to buy a lot of bulk items, like a big thing of rice for super cheap and it's all organic.

    Jonathan: That's amazing.

    Brandi Sellers: We have a system.

    Jonathan: I love it. Brad, we often talk about the $2 per person per meal. We have a whole list of meals at choosefi.com/meals. This is not a recommendation for you Brandi just because you guys are crushing it, but you're following an ethos of this, which is cost per person per meal. If your cost per person per meal is $10 per person per meal because you're going out to eat all the time, or $24 per person meal because tip and service or whatever, you are blowing through hundreds and hundreds if not thousands of extra dollars each month, in your case, regardless of whether or not you're actually external using this verbiage. What's our cost per meal per not? The core of it is there and that is, you do not need to spend as much money on groceries as you think you do if you have a plan in place and it doesn't need to be sacrificed.

    Brad: Yeah, and it sounds like just doing the quick math. I mean, $480 per month on five people and that's a little over a dollar per person per meal across all of those meals that month. I mean, that's remarkable. So yeah, there is no way we can help you optimize in that, I don't think.

    Jonathan: All right, so we got utilities, electric, internet cable, looks like this is coming in around $100 a month based on the summary I'm seeing there. How much are you paying for your cell phone?

    Brandi Sellers: I think it's like around 187.

    Jonathan: Who has the cell phone in the house?

    Brandi Sellers: Myself, my husband and our 13-year-old son.

    Jonathan: So three cell phones, 180. Who are you with?

    Brandi Sellers: We're with T-Mobile.

    Jonathan: Yeah, there's some room there. I mean it's three cell phones and then I don't know what sort of data plan you have, et cetera, but there's probably about an extra 100. I would imagine that you're probably spending about an extra $100 a month more than you need to there as well, pretty handily. Have you looked at any less expensive alternatives up to this point?

    Brandi Sellers: I have not yet.

    Brad: I think we have action step number two, obviously after the car insurance. Jonathan's right, I mean, just thinking about my own cell phone plan, my wife and I have used Republic Wireless for probably at least 10 years now or thereabouts. And yeah, we each spend about $20 per person per phone. So between the three-

    Jonathan: Per month, how many pers do you need in the statement?

    Brad: Yeah, per person, per month. Right, so that would be about 60 bucks a month for the three of you. So, yeah.

    Jonathan: Is Anna going to be getting a cell phone soon?

    Brad: Yeah, we have to talk about this. We have a pact with some of her friends' families and I think it's when they turn 13. So she's got another year now. But, yeah, I mean for 20 bucks a month, it's not terrible, obviously. So yeah, Republic Wireless, is what we use. And I guess the only caveat, and I think this is on the path to financial independence is you have to determine what you value. And so this is a much larger conversation than just the cell phone, but I'll give you my little soapbox rant here. It's like, you obviously can continue spending the $187 a month and I suspect that's unlimited data. And if you value that, then go for it. Nobody's going to tell you to not spend that if that's what you value.

    Brad: Obviously, I think you should shop around and see if there's something better. But regardless, what my wife and I have said is, all right, we don't value being able to stream YouTube videos or watch Netflix when we're not in the house. So we're not going to do that sitting in the doctor's office or at the grocery store, we're not going to stream YouTube videos. So we don't need unlimited data. So this Republic plan that we have, we get a gigabyte of data each which is not a ton, but it's more than enough for a month's worth of just normal phone use. So we said, okay, that's the little sacrifice we're going to make, but we're going to each save $80-$100 a month per phone. So it's a couple thousand dollars a year. So again, it's kind of a larger concept of you and your family need to decide what makes sense for you, but for us, that was a no brainer.

    Brandi Sellers: That sounds amazing to me. I mean, I'm all about saving money. I don't know who isn't, probably the same person who wants COVID to stick around a little longer.

    Brad: Sometimes you don't even know about these things. Like the car insurance, in the back of your mind, sure, you should have made a call years ago, but it's inertia. You've been using that same company for years. So you think maybe in the back of mind, "Oh, they're giving me a good price, I'm a long time customer." It doesn't work that way. We have to get up off the couch and take action and sometimes it's super simple. It takes five or 10 minutes and you're going to save a couple of $1000 a year for every year going forward until you need to do it the next time. Three years from now, make those calls or just go on the internet and get a phone quote and get a car insurance quote. Really, you do need to keep at this, but it can make savings over and over that compounds for years.

    Jonathan: When you do some sort of checkup like this, like a financial resilience checkup, you don't necessarily say, "All right, we have to do all this today or it's a failure." It's like, all right, this week, what is the one thing this week you're going to do? This week, I would say, you're going to go get a quote on your car insurance and just make sure you're paying market rates. You're not, unless your driving record is when Brandi is on the road none of us are, you're not getting market rates.

    Brandi Sellers: No, it's not that, not at all.

    Jonathan: That's not competitive and they're just taking advantage of the fact that you haven't taken their call. And your cell phone it's likely the same thing, you don't need to buy new phones. You bring your phone with you, you just switch over, they send you the SIM card, you update it with your new account number and pin number. It's a five-minute process, you got the new phone, life goes on as normal, there's no real friction there. If you bundle it all together like, "Oh, we got to do all this now. It seems overwhelming." If you do one thing a week, each week, you're just making a decision that's going to benefit you for the next 10 years, it's crazy.

    Jonathan: So I mean, we looked through these other utilities here. Your wifi is at 90 bucks a month. Your TV subscription utilities, all that's around $150 a month. You got kids' activities. I mean, I added all of these together. So kids activities, additional subscription services that you use, you have a self-care category, you have a credit card payment, but all that together right now puts us at $4,576 a month. That is your current monthly level of expenses here. The next thing we do is, what can we clean up?

    Jonathan: So if you cut $100 a month from your car payment, you cut $100 a month from your cell phone payment, you look through your subscription services and say, "Okay, which one of these do I still value and which ones was I just doing because I started the trial and then I just didn't want to cancel it because it's the same thing as with the car insurance, there's just too much trouble to call and cancel." You pay off the credit card. I mean, we could probably carve out another 205... I just think there's about $600, in your budget of expenses, there's probably $600 with about eight weeks of work. One action step a week, you could be at the end of this.

    Brandi Sellers: I love it.

    Jonathan: How does $800 a month... and like, you've made the decision once you worked your butt off for the next eight months, and now going forward, there's a space there of an additional $800 a month that wasn't there before. This is like what that 1% incremental improvement actually looks like. I want to talk about the credit card debt just for a second here. Is credit card debt a temporary thing because of COVID? Is this an ongoing kind of thing where it's just, "We just have a small credit card bill every single month." Tell us a bit more about that.

    Brandi Sellers: Yeah, so we have... I'm trying to think, John would probably know more about the credit card bill. I think a few years ago, we got this small credit card. It was like, "Okay, we need to build our credit." We were one of those weird people who didn't have credit cards, didn't have them at all. Everything we just paid via our bank and that was it, that's what we did. And so we ended up getting these credit cards, I think it was very low. It wasn't a lot, it was like maybe 4,000 on one and then another one was like 1000. It was a small credit card. So the debt is not crazy big, it's just, we just been paying on it every month. We'll make sure that we hit the mark every month.

    Jonathan: The payment? Just the minimum or whatever the minimum payment is, just pay that? Is that-

    Brandi Sellers: Yeah, that's exactly what we've been doing.

    Jonathan: So the card balance is at less than $10,000?

    Brandi Sellers: Oh yeah, absolutely.

    Jonathan: Couple 1000? Two to 3000, somewhere in that range?

    Brandi Sellers: Something like that, yeah.

    Jonathan: All right, so you've got 3000 a month. Do you know what the interest rate on your card is?

    Brandi Sellers: That is a good question, John would actually know that.

    Jonathan: That's all right. The card's average in between 12%-24%, if you're not checking it. It's probably not unreasonable to say you're paying a 24% interest for the privilege of holding onto that two to $3,000 worth of debt. That's pretty typical in the credit card space. And then you have a car payment, would you know what the interest rate is on your car payment?

    Brandi Sellers: That is a good question as well, those I think I don't know if people really ask. That is very good, oh my gosh.

    Jonathan: Okay, so now the reason I say that is you don't have a ton. I didn't hear student loans. Do you have any student loan debt?

    Brandi Sellers: We do, but I paid off mine last year, which I was very, very happy about. Paid off mine last year. We still have a little bit of John's. I think his is like maybe few thousand.

    Jonathan: Few thousand, less than 10,000?

    Brandi Sellers: Yeah.

    Jonathan: Less than 5,000 ish?

    Brandi Sellers: I think it's-

    Jonathan: We're going to go with 5,000, I hear 5000.

    Brandi Sellers: Is it two? Is it five? I think it's definitely less than 10 for sure.

    Jonathan: Okay, All right. So here's a series of questions. Now we're getting into the weeds as part of this checkup. There's a lot of stuff that you don't know off the top of your head, there's no reason that you would, unless you are planning to answer these ambush questions. But these are really important questions because they form your strategy. So you have three or four different types of that and by themselves, they're seemingly innocuous. But when you add them all together, they're taking away probably several $100 a month, maybe as much as six to $800 a month in cashflow.

    Jonathan: I mean, you got a car payment at $400 a month, you've got a student loan interest payment at, well, we don't know exactly what that payment is, but it's probably several $100 a month based on what you mentioned, you've got a credit card payment at $300 a month, we've got this car insurance which is costing you an extra $100 a month car payment, you've got the cell phone that you're paying $100 more than you need to, there's a $1000 a month that's disappearing every month because you can afford the payments.

    Brandi Sellers: Yeah.

    Brad: And that's normal life Brandi. So I mean, don't feel bad. Obviously, this is how most people live and I mean you're doing quite well. Even in this COVID budget of making somewhere in the vicinity of $6,000 of income, we looked at your budget and said, you're spending somewhere in the vicinity of 4,500. So there's still a gap there to the positive, obviously. And I think what Jonathan's getting out here is, your balances are not that significant on these debts. I think you told us that your car payment, you have less than a year left. You only have a couple thousand dollars on the credit card, only a couple thousand or thereabouts on the student loan.

    Brad: If you guys really redouble your efforts to pay these down, you can free up 1000 plus dollars. It might even be more than that depending obviously what the student loan is. And you take those simple action steps on the car insurance and the cell phone bill. I mean, you could save probably well more than 20%-25% maybe 30 plus percent of your overall budget, it's just gone. Of that 4,500 you told us, 30% of it is just gone because you really stuck to it and said, "All right, every available dollar, even in these hard times, we're just going to pay this stuff down." And then that monthly line item, they're gone forever. I mean, that is just such a heartening thing even amidst this really difficult time.

    Brandi Sellers: That's really refreshing to hear that, to be honest. I mean, even just hearing, and this might sound really crazy but I've never thought, "Oh yeah, how about you go over your bills and see what you can cut out and cut down." I think most people think of what they can bring in. So they work even harder and it's like, "Let me bring in more," as opposed to, "Let me see what I have and let me cut that down." Because even just looking at everything now, yeah, even during COVID. I mean, realistically you probably bring in more than what I said but it's like with that knowing that there are certain things that we can take down, John, he must be listening and he has to be listening, he has just texted me. He said [inaudible 00:42:21] you better go.

    Brad: Tell them this, tell them this.

    Jonathan: You're going to hear this episode I'm sure after it goes live and we've thrown a lot at you. So I just want to give you some very clear action steps from my perspective that I seen, so we've mentioned a lot. First of all, is know how much your life actually costs and what those monthly recurring structural expenses are. I'm less interested in your one-off purchases, your one-off decision points. I'm very interested in the structure that you've created for your life because this will persist for months and years.

    Jonathan: So what I heard is you have lots of things that you can afford the payments on, that it's working, it's simmering water, it's working, we can afford the payments. If you said, "I can't afford the payments. We're going to crush these and get them out of our life," you could have it cleaned up in less than a year and if you did that, you would easily, easily trim $1000 a month from your monthly expenses.

    Jonathan: And here's the great part, you said you underestimated your income. So we said six a month, in good year's five a month and right now that means probably even conservatively, you're actually at seven a month is what you're bringing, I'm just saying it, you're not saying it. So if you're at seven a month and that's what you're making so you can pay this off more aggressively than I just said. Now it's done, and now your life in reality only costs $3,500 a month. Have you ever contemplated what it would be like to get to the point where working is optional? Now, I'm not telling you, you can't work. I'm just saying, you don't have to do it for a paycheck.

    Brandi Sellers: I dig that, I'm all about that.

    Jonathan: Let's map that out, Brad, let's talk about $3,500 a month. That's what Brandi needs right now with her stage of life. Once she gets this debt removed, how long would it take her to reach financial independence?

    Brad: Yeah, Brandi. So obviously, you're getting on your path, you're new to the financial independence community, so you're just getting started. So even the concepts, I want to go over with you because there are a lot of people who are listening to this who are brand new and who don't have this memorized or really committed to memory of this is my North Star.

    Brad: So the way that we kind of conceptualize your financial independence figure is based off of your expenses. Because that's what you need to cover to, again, like Jonathan said, it's not like you're not going to work or where we tell you cannot work, that's preposterous, you follow your passions. But not needing to work is a wonderful thing.

    Brad: So your investments, your net worth needs to be able to cover all of your expenses, that's really simple. If you're not making any income and you have these investments that can spit off a certain amount, if they can cover your expenses then you're at a point of financial independence. So the way that we do it is we look at the easiest way, is we start with our monthly expenses. And then we need to turn it into a rough annualized expenses. So we just multiply it by 12, super simple. So 3,500 times 12 is $42,000.

    Brad: And now to get a very rough, back of the envelope, financial independence figure, we multiply that by 25. So in your case, we're multiplying that by 25 and it comes out to a little more than a $1,000,000, so a $1,050,000. Now that is your financial independence figure. How we look at this, we call it the 4% rule of thumb. So if you have this big pot of money, this $1,000,000, you can pull out 4% of it pretty reliably.

    Brad: We've had a lot of episodes with a gentleman named Big ERN from the website Early Retirement Now. And he dives at a Ph.D. level, literally, into the specifics of this. And he would quibble about, is it 3.5%? Is it 3.25%? But regardless, just for ease of mind and ease of understanding, we call it the 4% rule of thumb. So you've got this million bucks, you can pull out about 4% of that and it is adjusted for inflation. So it does go up a little bit each year but you can pull 4% of it out each year to cover your expenses. And that money will not exhaust itself, certainly not in the next 30, it might even be 50 plus years. It might last in perpetuity depending on the results but you can pretty safely assume that that money's going to last, you many, many, many decades.

    Brad: So in your case that 1,000, 50,000, you could pull out 42,000 in that first year, then adjust it for inflation, obviously, and you add financial independence. So does that make sense? This might be the first time you're hearing about this and I know I threw aa lot a-

    Brandi Sellers: It is the first time.

    Brad: Okay, cool. So I threw a lot of numbers at you. You can obviously replay that a bunch of times and Jonathan, if you want to jump in now, go for it.

    Brandi Sellers: And just so I'm clear the 25, where does that come from exactly? Because I kind of have an idea but I just wanted to clarify.

    Jonathan: Yeah, it's the inverse of what's called the 4% rule. So basically instead of us trying to worry about percentages and 4%, et cetera, basically, if you take whatever your annual expenses are, you multiply that times 25, you get this really big number but practically what that means is you could reliably draw 4% of that out, which would again map out to your monthly expenses, basically, and you would not even really be drawing down, for most individuals, you wouldn't even end up drawing down on the principal. So you have this perpetual money-making machine.

    Jonathan: But here's the thing, here's the way the small things matter, every $100 a month that you cut and recurring monthly expenses is $30,000 less than you need in this financial independence number. So when we say you can afford the payments and the payments that you can quite afford is around a $1,000 a month, just hanging on because there's no urgency to pay it off because you'll always make more. I mean, we can multiply that out but that is 30,000 times 10, that's $300,000 more that you need to get to financial independence, which tells us we can't afford the payments on anything. We need to get those payments out of our lives.

    Jonathan: And that comes back to, like with your specific scenario and I think it's useful for people, what's the strategy? How do you stack them up? And you have the perfect example here of even thinking through that you have a car payment, you have a credit card payment and you have student loan payment. And here's what we want to know, we want to know the balances. So when you go back and you're doing your homework on this, just real quick, easy questions this week, you want to know, what's the balance on each one of those? You and John have a heart to heart, and what's the percentage rates?

    Jonathan: Just like with the car rate when you're not really thinking about it, you're not really looking at the rate, car payments can be crazy low, like 1% or 2% or they can be 10% plus when they're just taking advantage of someone and you may or may not know what that interest rate is and what that interest rate is will drastically affect how much you prioritize paying it off. But generally, just without knowing your numbers, here's what I bet will be the case. First and foremost, your credit card, that little credit card is probably got a 20% plus interest rate on it, that is the one-

    Brandi Sellers: He just-

    Jonathan: Yes.

    Brandi Sellers: It's funny, John just texted me that, of course, he did, he said it's 22.99%.

    Jonathan: Yes, that suckers got to go, hair's on fire, got to go. No point worrying about self-care until we get that car payment taken care of that is hair on fire debt right there. We cannot afford the payments at 22% interest rate. Next behind that we're looking at the car payment, student loans. Generally, student loans as long as they're government-held, they're going to usually on the lower end.

    Jonathan: So without knowing since the car sector is private, if you weren't strategizing that and being mercenary on that front, it's probably going to be at this point higher than the student loans. And if that's the case, car's next, getting rid of the car, getting rid of the student loans, we're paying as much as we possibly can extra, the credit card debt until that's gone paying the minimum debt on the other two and then we're rolling once that credit card debt is gone, rolling that money that we were paying towards the others.

    Jonathan: I mean, I'm telling you with your variable income, your ability to crush it. And on the other side of this, you're doing so good. You're already optimized on so many other ways. If you put intentionality in here, I'm telling you eight months from now, you're going to come up and you're going to have freed up a $1,000 of cash flow and you apply just a framework, a basic framework to investing, to building that nest, and we could talk more about that if you want to or we could redirect you towards some resources. I mean, you got a 12-year path here, 12 years from now, you follow the course, you keep focusing on earning more and optimizing your expenses. You're going to be good to go, your financial independence is going to have taken care of itself. And then from there, it's like, "Alright, what do we want to do?"

    Brandi Sellers: I'm excited, this makes me feel happy.

    Jonathan: Yeah, the sun is bright right now. COVID's got nothing on you, you got this.

    Brandi Sellers: Oh my gosh, that's good, I'm glad.

    Brad: But like we said, it is all about taking action, this stuff is not going to get better unless you make those phone calls. And unless you and John get together and say, "All right, we are going to crush that debt." And when you do, I mean all that, like Jonathan just said, it's all going to be freed up for you to then invest and get on this path to financial independence.

    Brad: And the beautiful thing is this is an expedited path. Jonathan just said 12 years, I mean, it could realistically be as few as that, depending obviously on how much you can save every month. I mean, I just went to apps at ChooseFI.com and plug some numbers into our retirement projection calculator and even saving $2,000 a month, which just based on what you're telling us, once you can free this stuff up at 8% annual return which is pretty reasonable over a longterm period of time, it looks like just with that $2,000 a month, it would be an 18-year path to financial independence if you're starting from zero, in your case, if you have no net worth, nothing saved.

    Brad: A lot of people might say, "Oh, it's hopeless, I'm at zero, how could I ever get to that million dollars?" $2,000 a month for 18 years and with the way that you guys have the potential, obviously, to get back to earning when life gets back to normal, that could easily turn into $4,000 a month or who knows and then you are talking 10, 12, who knows, eight years, something like that. So this is a real plausible path.

    Brandi Sellers: I'm excited, I love it, it sounds really simple but it's completely not, thinking about, "Oh, I could just trim the fat of it," as opposed to let you bring in so much more-

    Jonathan: And with no change to your lifestyle. I mean, this literally, the only difference is you make a couple phone calls for the next few weeks and then your life just goes on as normal but you're on a 10-15-year path to financial independence and nobody knew anything changed. You just put your game face on for a few months.

    Brandi Sellers: Yeah, that sounds crazy but I have not thought about that before. Because I know for sure our car insurance should be cheaper, it should be, it should be. But we've gotten used to kind of just-

    Jonathan: Oh, they're going to get a phone call this week, John, I know you're listening, they're going to get a phone call this week.

    Brandi Sellers: Oh yeah, they are and they'll probably get it from him. I mean, but that and-

    Jonathan: Just send us a message when you immediately chop off $200 a month after this phone call, that's my [crosstalk 00:53:05] two weeks to $200 less a month, I can see it coming.

    Brandi Sellers: I will, I mean, we found other ways, like I said, we have figured out a way with groceries and cutting down with that but also having abundance with that. If I showed you how many oranges I have in the refrigerator, not in the refrigerator but on the counter it's insane. So it's no difference with the other things.

    Jonathan: And I think food is legitimately harder than either of the two suggestions we just said, the car insurance and this, those are one and done. Foods, that's just a system and it requires constant overview and you got to keep your eyes on the prize. So if you can do that, you can do this.

    Brandi Sellers: No problem, not a perk, thank you.

    Jonathan: And I realized all we did today, Brandi is we just took a look at your budget, your COVID budget and once you understand your expenses, what to do, I realize we haven't talked about how to optimize your retirement accounts, how to optimize your investments. This is a fun game, it doesn't have to be overly complicated, just do it. Small actions, they take care of themselves, you're going to get there, they're going to force this outcome.I'm happy to talk more with you offline about what those retirement strategies look like.

    Jonathan: For our audience if you're living this with Brandi and you're like, "I need to get started too." We've actually created a financial resilience toolbox to talk you through some of these big ideas, to access that go to ChooseFI.com/start. I also wanted to mention it to the audience, check out the show notes if you want more information on any of the links mentioned, Brad, we do have specifically with Republic Wireless, we do have a special offer for new trials. If individuals want to check that out, how can they access that?

    Brad: Yeah, Republic has given a nice special offer here for the listeners at ChooseFI. So you get two months of free service for the unlimited talk and text and one gigabyte of data which is a $20 value. It looks like you have to pay for your first month and then you'll get your second and third months free. But like I said, I've been with them for over a decade myself. So that should be pretty straightforward and you can find all the info on this deal @republicwireless.com/chooseFI.

    Jonathan: All right, Brandi, thank you so much for joining us. Truly, this is what our hot seat looks like now. I mean, and you, you crushed it. I can't express to you how much we appreciate the transparency with how you shared your finances and what you're doing. I honestly believe that if you take action on the ideas that we talked about in the show, you are going to create financial independence for yourself and your family within a period of about 15 years, I'm just calling it right now. And that's even with everything that's going on in this crazy pandemic world that we live in. So people listen to this, they want to connect with you, they want to find out more about your content, your services and your story, what's the best way for them to do that?

    Brandi Sellers: Yeah, the best way to reach out to me is, I'm on Instagram, like most people just @bstereo or you can check out my online platform there as well or at notsoprivateparts.life.

    Jonathan: Okay, perfect, thank you so much for joining us on the show today.

    Brandi Sellers: Awesome, thank you so much for having me.

    Jonathan: To our audience, I hope you're enjoying these five case study series. I mean, this is happening in real-time, there's a lot of actionable steps that Brandi can take that will massively speed up her path and her family's path to financial independence. And I think the value is highlighting that these small steps they do matter. And probably many of you listening to this, have something tickling your brain, "Oh yeah, I should probably take action on that." Do it, pick one thing, no matter how big or how small it's scary to do the big things, do the small things but do one each week.

    Jonathan: And this aggregation of marginal gains will inevitably take you to where you want to go, will take you to financial independence. If you're inspired by this and you're ready to get started, go to ChooseFI.com/start. We've put all of our resources there for you, but again, this only works if you take action, take action today, get started on your path to financial independence. All right, my friends stay tuned, stay subscribed. We'll see you next time as we continue to go down the road less traveled.

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    1 thought on “Covid Budget awakening | brandi Sellers | Ep 218”

    1. Loving these case studies! I have a suggestion which may be helpful if you incorporated it into their FI number to give a more realistic number and show users a wider gamut of scenarios.

      Given these case studies are for a specific person, it would be nice to take into account that person’s state in two ways, state income tax when withdrawing gains and an average ACA plan for the state for the person’s age when they are targeting their FI number if they don’t have medical insurance covered in some other way. I understand that both of these come with caveats but if you came up with a methodical way of deciding how each of these applied for these case studies, it would be extremely helpful in creating a more realistic number for people.

      I’m sure there could be others that may be useful and I understand there’s only a certain amount of time that you have when discussing this topic but when considering my own FI number, these two things made a material difference on what I safely consider my FI number. I personally also use 3.5% instead of 4% but that’s simple enough to recalculate if you want to use a different number there, unlike the different state variables which I still myself have a hard time verifying my calculations are taking the right things into account and are accurate.

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